Followed by 'Take Back the Butte' march up Pilot Butte
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ ) -- Central Oregonians gathered Friday afternoon in Bend's Drake Park to celebrate Juneteenth, a traditional day to recognize the end of slavery in America.
Participants said it was far different than any of the recent protests seen in Central Oregon, as it was simply about celebration and peace.
January 1, 1863 is when President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves free became official. But it wasn't until June 19, 1865 that slaves in Texas learned they were free.
Participants in Central Oregon gathered to celebrate the freedom for all.
Adriana Aquarius, organizer of the event and creator of the Central Oregon Diversity Project, said , "I’ve been trying to educate people. Many people think that July 4th is our independence day, but little do people know that two years later, there was still slavery alive in Texas.
"Juneteenth, June 19th , is the day that the military showed up in Texas and said, 'You slaves are free,'" Aquarius said. "So we consider that when the last of our chains were broken free.”
Aquarius and her friend, Josie Stanfield of Prineville, have been helping to coordinate Black Lives Matter protests in Central Oregon. Stanfield, who continues to protest regardless of public criticism and even death threats, said Friday is Jubilee Day.
“This is how they celebrated -- they came out and had food, music and dance. So that’s what we’re doing today," Stanfield said.
She said it's about changing the minds of others, one person at a time.
“It’s so important to keep having these conversations," Stanfield said. "You see people asking, 'Whats the point? Whats the point?' But every time we have an event like this, we change five or 10 peoples minds on this.
"We change what they thought of us originally. Those five to 10 people then go on to talk to other people.”
At Drake Park, many had the opportunity to give speeches and testimonies. Speaker Teryl Young took the mic and shared a list of contributions and inventions by Black people in the United States. He shared the significance of why this was important.
“I think because our history is usually suppressed, you never get the full history of why we matter," Young said. "I think I wanted to put that in the speech, that Black people contributed heavily to the development of this country. It needed to be shared, so people can hear the contributions.”
Another young woman at the event who is a member of the LGBTQIA community said it's about unifying all groups that are marginalized.
“People together bring power," Sequoia Williams said. "If someone speaks out, then a lot of people will come together and speak out as well, so that’s what I love and am happy about."
Following Friday's rally, many participants headed to Bend's Pilot Butte for a "Take Back the Butte" march up the landmark and a gathering at the summit, where the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses nearly a century ago.